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April 28. 2014 7:49PM

Dangers of underage drinking stressed as NH prom, graduation season arrives

SOMERSWORTH — With all the proms, graduations and parties coming up this spring, some call this time of year the “perfect storm” of underage drinking.

As a result, it is also the perfect time to warn area residents — both young and old — about the dangers of underage drinking through a coordinated campaign of speakers, advertising and police presence, according to Deputy Roland Morin of the Strafford County Sheriff’s Office.

Former New England Patriot Chris Sullivan and his wife, Kathi Meyer Sullivan, are scheduled to talk about Kathi’s daughter, Taylor Meyer, who died at the age of 17 during homecoming weekend in 2008. The Sullivans are scheduled to speak to students today at Dover High School, the Bud Carlson School in Rochester and Somersworth High School.

Taylor Meyer, who was a senior at King Philip High School in Wrentham, Mass., at the time, attended a series of underage parties, including one at an abandoned airport in the woods, according to the website www.taylorsmessage.com.

“When she left the party, she went the wrong way and walked deeper into the woods. She drowned in only two feet of water, alone in the cold woods, because of the alcohol in her system,” according to a release.

As part of the ongoing effort by Strafford County Sheriff’s Office, in collaboration with the Dover Police Department’s Youth to Youth program, the Sullivans will also tell their story during a free, public event at Somersworth High School, located at 11 Memorial Drive, Wednesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

“It’s perfect timing — this is when the storm starts,” Morin said, alcohol-related incidents rise as people enjoy the warmer weather.

Morin said the effort — which is meant to reach across the entire county — helps remind area residents and visitors that it is illegal for people to host “underage” parties.

While the county used federal grants and awards to pay for patrols of parking lots and for underage parties in the past, Morin said officials decided to focus on education and reach a greater audience this year.

“We intend to continue these efforts,” Morin said, adding these presentations, radio ads and other programs will create “a saturating effect” on the area.

Kathi Meyer Sullivan, who has been passionately sharing Taylor’s story since 2008, has been working closely with Dover Youth to Youth for the past six years.

“Passionate about reaching student’s hearts and minds, she shares what happened that night, how it could have been prevented, and how Taylor’s death has affected Taylor’s friends, family and community,” according to a release.

The Strafford County Sheriff’s Office is sponsoring the presentation through an underage drinking grant provided by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Although it is being funded through another program, Morin said the Sullivans are also scheduled to speak at Nute High School in Milton on May 24.

Johanna Howman, grant manager for the New Hampshire Department of Justice, said these efforts have made an impact across the state, which has previously received up to $360,000 in federal grants. Unfortunately, she added, officials have to focus on the most successful efforts as there is only $60,000 in assistance this year.

Howman said officials in Strafford County have done an “exemplary” job educating area residents about the dangers of underage drinking and the penalties of those who host parties.

“We’re just trying to get the word out,” Howman said.

For more information about their underage drinking prevention programs visit straffordsheriff.com

jquinn@newstote.com


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